Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#297 / Politicization: Bad Or Good?

As Jennifer Szalai noted in an article published last Sunday in The New York Times Magazine (the article was titled "Cheap Trick" in the hard copy version), politicization is not held in high repute:

Politicization is the last refuge of the scoundrel. To “politicize” something — hurricanes, intelligence, science, football, gun violence — is to render it political in a way that distorts its true meaning. That, at least, seems to be the reasoning of those who use the term as an insult: We adhere to pristine, unadulterated facts and call for unity; they politicize those facts for partisan gain and divide us even more.

As I read those introductory words, I immediately began writing (mentally) my opposing Op-Ed. In fact, since we do "live in a political world," meaning that the social, economic, and cultural aspects of our civilization depend on the political choices we make, "politicization" is hardly negative. In fact, "politicization" means that we are collectively debating, and ultimately deciding, what we are going to do about something. We need more, not less, of that. 

By the time I reached the end of Szalai's essay, I had calmed right down. Szalai finished her discussion by citing to Hanna Arendt, who always deserves the last word:

According to popular lore, part of what made totalitarianism so dangerous was its “politicization of everything,” but Hannah Arendt, who should know, insisted in a 1958 essay that the opposite was true. It is “depoliticization,” she wrote, that “destroys the element of political freedom in all activities”; depoliticization is what makes political action seem futile and moot. To strip an issue of its political dimension is to assume it’s settled or to try to make it so — not by argument, which would be to politicize it, but by blithe dismissal or brute force.

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